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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tom's Post-#SCOTUS Suck- it List

I am not always a gracious loser, many of you will know that I have been nominated for the J. Ward Preston Faculty of the Year award at Jackson College twice now, and I have yet to win. I am the Susan Lucci of JC, always nominated, but never winning. I do take comfort in my 2005 award of the MEA Higher Ed Art Teacher of the mother-fuckin’ Year award for the state of Michigan and I dry my tears on that when I don’t win locally. But I digress.
In the past, when my rights as a gay man were trampled on, I raised a ruckus. And rightfully so. Over the past 12 or so years, I have been portrayed as a pedophile, a villain, and someone who is not worthy of basic human rights, including, but not limited to marriage, raising children, and equal protection under the law. So, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I am going to do a hi-5/victory lap and shove my status as a full and legal citizen down the throats of my haters.

Let’s call this Tom’s Suck-it List.

So, who to pick on first?

1.       My number one is the Mormon Church. Yes, you all can suck it and sing about it later. The Magic Underwear Cult spent a lot of money trying to derail Tod and my legal marriage in California in 2008. I had to school two of their young recruits out proselytizing in our neighborhood. When the fresh-faced teen rang our door, after walking under a rainbow flag and bunting, I stopped them in their tracts and started asking them if they knew how much their church spent trying to destroy our marriage. I then pointed to the rainbow décor and asked them if they knew what that was. They didn’t. I suggested that they have a serious sit down with their elders and discuss this, and what the fucking rainbow flag means (Mormons = stay away) and move on. To this day, the young LDS pedal right by our house and don’t bother us. More on their marriage shenanigans here


2.       The Knights of Columbus. Fuck you and your pancakes. We don’t need you. When Jesus (or Baphomet) come back, how will you answer to them and your wanton spending on this cause? People are literally starving and you’re holding breakfasts to raise money to fight our legal marriage? Choke on your pancakes assholes. More on their feathered lot here 


3.       Speaking of choking on your food… my third entry is Chick-fil-A, the religiously pretentious chicken eatery that denies you their goods when your hangover is the worst (Sunday). Yes, they abide by biblical law by not operating on the alleged Sabbath but have yet to share which definition of the biblical family they are following. Concubines? Multiple wives? Hey, if you’re going to follow the bible and alienate those who respect LGBT folks, you better have your story *ahem* straight. Until then, piss off. 


4.       And then there are these guys… NOM. Nom nom nom nom nom… chew on our victory haters! I hope it tastes as good as I imagine. The time, the tweets, the marches, the MONEY, and don’t get me started on Maggie’s hair. Please go away now, you’re no longer needed

5.       My final entry is a group, but then I will hone my focus and single out one. Yes the G.O.P. The Republicans. The Party of Stupid. We were out to eat with our friends on election night 2004 and two horrible things became clear: Prop 2 here in Michigan (outlawing same sex marriage) and W’s reelection were going to happen. We glumly ate our food and a jubilant waiter ran by hi fiving people yelling “Four more years!” I wanted to cry, and then stab him with my steak knife. The GOP used the issue of same sex marriage as a wedge issue, an issue to get out their rabid base and secure Bush’s disastrous second term and it worked. We were their unwilling pawns in their quest for power. One candidate here in Jackson was Rick Baxter. His campaign flyers were an offense to anyone who cared about their LGBT friends and family. Ironically, Rick is now on his second or third marriage and is going through a rather nasty divorce. So yeah, where is the sanctity of marriage now? It’s all a memory and thankfully we can all move on.


So yeah, all the aforementioned can officially Suck It! Think of what you could have been doing with all that time, money, and energy that you expended making my life a living hell. Meanwhile, I will bask in my newfound status as a married man here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. and not give two fucks about your precious feelings or alleged religious freedom. Move on haters.
Happy 4th everyone!


Monday, June 29, 2015

Musings on Marriage Equality from a Straight Ally

This is Donald. Sorry boys, he's straight. Photo by Pamela Ann Berry


I had the opportunity to work with Donald Seaman a few years back at Jackson College when he was working with the Theatre Department. His sense of humor and love of learning is contagious. He posted this on his Facebook page on Friday after the SCOTUS ruling and I asked him if I could share it with my audience. I am humbled by how many straight allies we have out there, and it’s heartening to know that we did not go into this battle for marriage equality alone. Thank you Donald for your friendship, your support, and your prose. You need to write a book dude.
I’ll shut up now and let Donald speak:

It’s a great day for the U.S.A. everybody! Ours is the 23rd country to remove its head from its hind-end to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples. I really, really, really wish we had been the first (ambition should be made of sterner stuff) but it is a grand day indeed and we are all better for it. I want to share my enthusiasm and write as gracefully as Justice Kennedy, but I fear there is naught left to say. I will share a post from a couple years ago to clarify my point of view but before you read that, I feel compelled to draw a minor parallel to something I was part of yesterday.
We recently finished an ESL teaching certification course here at UT-Austin where one of our students was a blind refugee. He was a curious, playful and endearing student and we all grew fond of his humor and his charm. During the final week of class he invited several of us to his home and yesterday four of the teachers were able to join him for dinner at his apartment where we learned a bit about him and ourselves. The visit went as I expected it would; he was generous, gregarious and sweet. There were some brief moments of tension as we tried to decode his broken English and forestall awkward faux pas due to cultural confusion, but overall it was very pleasant and I think everyone was glad they could attend. I have met, known and served visually impaired people in the past, but I have never been in the home of a blind man. His was a tidy, comfortable apartment, not unlike my own but for minor differences. After just a few moments I understood the privilege and advantage of sight. We were able to make a few discrete adjustments on his behalf, but long-term remediation was beyond our grasp.
The relevance to today’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage is this; while I can imagine what it’s like to be blind, I have the luxury of opening my eyes. I am not blind and I am not gay, so whatever degree of sympathy I have for oft-marginalized populations, I fear I can’t truly empathize with them. I realized that I can do what I’m doing now; I can write and advocate on behalf of my colleagues and friends, but I can’t really put myself in their position because there will always be seemingly minor but realistically gargantuan details about which I haven’t the foggiest. I noticed things which I simply hadn’t imagined but which were so obviously problematic that I was forced to meditate on my good fortune. When the news broke today I immediately reflected on what I learned yesterday and I thought that this ruling might be as restorative and empowering as the gift of sight would be for our student.
“To live, to see the sun, to be in full possession of viral force; to possess health and joy; to laugh valiantly; to rush toward a glory which one sees dazzling in front of one; to feel in one's breast lungs which breathe, a heart which beats, a will which reasons; to speak, think, hope, love; to have a mother, to have a wife, to have children, to have the light” - Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
I was glad for the political progress, but I also felt a sense of relief for every encumbered individual who could finally count themselves as a fully vested member of society because many of these people are my artistic, philosophical and intellectual heroes. Perhaps this is empathy? I don’t know. Hitch and Stephen Fry were more succinct and poignant in their remarks during the Intelligence² debate in October of 2009:
“Well, I say that homosexuality is not just a form of sex, it’s a form of love, and it deserves our respect for that reason.” - Christopher Hitchens
“It’s a little hard for me to know that I am disordered, or again to quote Ratzinger that I am ‘guilty of a moral evil’ simply by fulfilling my sexual destiny as I see it. It’s hard for me to be told that. To be told that I’m evil. Because I think of myself as someone who is filled with love, whose only purpose in life was to achieve love, and who feels love for so much of nature and the world and for everything else and who like anybody decent and of an education realizes that in order to achieve and receive love it’s a struggle.” - Stephen Fry
I too think of myself as someone who is filled with love and whose only purpose in life is to serve love and to achieve love, but all things are not for all people. Marriage may not come to me, to you or to someone you think deserves it. We are not entitled to all that we covet, but neither should we be envious or bellicose to those who perfect their passions.
I recently found an old high school portfolio from Mr. Lawrence’s psych class. I was amazed to find that even then I wrote in support of progressive drug policies, assisted suicide and gay rights. I don't mention it to fish for compliments, but simply to invigorate those of you who may feel that your current progressive beliefs may be far-fetched. I'm proud to say I've supported these issues for over twenty years and each is finally coming to fruition.
As for arguments contra gay marriage I am utterly uninterested and you can piss right off. The battle is over.
Below you'll find my remarks from March of 2013 regarding this very topic:

I'm an expert in nothing outside myself, and when confronted with a fresh donut even that proficiency is suspect, but I can claim to know what love is. (thank you, Forrest). I am not married, don't have a girlfriend, haven't been privileged to see my own child born, but I do know what love is. I adore my friends' kids. They are the best thing in my life. I am thankful every day for my parents and love them beyond comprehension. My brother is still a source of admiration and pride. He's so smart and we have a shorthand for humor that only siblings have. My friends have made my life better by accepting me as I was and enjoying what considerable mischief I could bring to their lives. Devotion is a pale shadow of what I feel when I think on my friends, so it makes no sense that I should ignore even a small opportunity to lend my voice in support of the only thing that gets me to put one foot in front of the other; love. There were nights of endless pleasure, as the song goes, but what motivates me to support marriage equality are the nights of endless solitude. If you have ever felt that earth-cracking avalanche of melancholy when you are the guest with no +1 or when another moonrise magnifies the empty seat next to you, why, why on Earth would you be so primitive, atavistic and crude as to deny love or even try to destroy it for another? This is not admirable, this is not leadership, this is not holy, spiritual, ethical, moral or laudable in any way. This is base. This is contrary to everything we learned in kindergarten. One memory always moves me. There is no delicate entrée for your gentler natures, but evening fell and we took our cue from the urges within, searching for our identities in each other's arms. I saw her wipe a tear away and smile. Unsure of just about everything at that moment I asked her what was wrong. She said "Nothing. Nothing is wrong. I'm just so happy to be with you and I know that you love me." Now, things fall apart, that relationship didn't hold, but the moment did. It was wonderful, it was tender, it was emotional, it was psychological, it was love. Not every story has a happy ending, but every tale has a teller. Each of us is writing a story. Each of us has different complications. There is not a single reason why love should be any more complicated than it already is. We are in a time when men and women are more comfortable living out loud, but think of the people you know who simply couldn't in their time. As Pooh says, "Together is a very grand thing to be." Let's get together and move forward, abandoning the irrational lunacies of a too cloudy past and perhaps, in the words of Hitchens, "our species would begin to grow to something like its full height if we left this childishness behind". I know what love is and wish it for all of my friends. Equally.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Doing time with the Post-Impressionists

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Vincent (Starry, starry night) Don McLean



After my lecture on the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, I ask the students to let me know which artist, or which piece of art, had the biggest impact on them. These artists are often labeled as boring or pedestrian as their humble scenes of domesticity and bucolic landscapes often go unnoticed. The artwork is what some consider “hotel art” or art that doesn't challenge or offend the viewer. However, once the students hear the back stories on these artists (particularly Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec), their opinions change and they view this art with new eyes and attitudes. One of the students, a quiet young man with a passion for music had this to say about Van Gogh.

The painting that I have come to enjoy more and more over the past few months is “Starry Night” by Van Gogh. I’m not a huge painting fan, so I don’t know much of his work. I know this one though and I love it with the colors, swirls, everything.
Van Gogh inspired me with this painting by reminding me of home. Being in this place, it is really easy to become “institutionalized,” or immune to reality. I’ve tried very hard to not let that happen to me and this painting, whether I see it or not, has helped me. Just thinking about it helps me to remember that there is more to all of this than just prison and someday, I’ll get to go home and experience that. That’s what keeps me going every day.
Thank you for this class.

I was humbled by this disclosure especially after a particularly challenging week dealing with the bureaucracy associated with the MDOC and teaching in this facility. I was renewed as I realized that for some, I was bringing a sense of hope into their lives, a sense of having a purpose beyond being a number in the penal system. It’s not easy work, teaching never is, but its rewards are often more than you can ever imagine.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Picture Perfect

Please meet my buddy Seth. 
Photograph by Luis Saenz
I had his mom as a student a long time ago, and he remembered me from all her rants and raves about me (we had a tumultuous student/teacher relationship). We connected a beer and beards event here in Jackson several years ago, and since then, we’ve become great friends. We share a love of photography as well as a love for family and social justice. Seth asked us if he could photograph our family and we (the attention whores that we are) eagerly said yes. He and his future bride Anyee took us out on a blustery day and photographed us all over our fair city. Anyee did a bang up job wrangling the kids and she also helped keep Anna’s hair in check with all the wind.



He didn’t care that we were a same-sex couple, he didn’t invoke the bible or Jesus to say no to us, HE SOUGHT US OUT and for that we are very appreciative. In these troubling times of homophobic pizza parlors and mechanics that will purposely reassemble your car in a dangerous manner to teach you about the gays, it’s nice to find someone like Seth and Anyee that go out of their way to support us and the LGBT community.

Michigan for Marriage picked up one of his photos from my post on Facebook and asked if they could use it for an email blast and we said yes. So our smiling family, posed in front of Louise Nevelson’s “Summer Night Tree” was sent to thousands of folks in Michigan and beyond. We received many compliments on the photo and how it presented us as just another family and not the scary gays that those homophobes are so up in arms about.

So why all this love? Seth is having his first showing of art at the Grand River Brewery this Saturday. It’s a great place and a great venue to look at art and drink some fine beer. Please consider stopping by this Saturday from 6:00 to 10:00 pm to check out Seth’s photos and the work of several other artists in the brewery’s event hall.

You can find more about the event on their Facebook invitation here: https://www.facebook.com/events/348016968730292/

You can find more about Seth and his artwork here: http://www.sethingtonscreations.com/



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kids and art: Musings from an art educator and parent

A photo of the artist as a young child c. 1972
Growing up in Toledo (Ohio) gave me the chance to go to the fabulous Toledo Museum of Art many times as a child; on both school field trips and trips with the family. The museum has a long and storied history of arts education for children of all ages. Some of my earliest memories as a kid are from the museum and the trips I took to this amazing institution. During the school trips, if you were good on the tour, the docent would end the trip with a visit to the Classical Court to see the mummy. Our deceased Egyptian friend is no longer on view due to changing ideas on displaying human remains, so for many of us, the mummy lives on only in our memories. Along with the school tours, the museum also offered Saturday classes for the kids of Northwest Ohio and it was a thrill for me to go back to the museum as a college student and help out as an assistant thanks to a scholarship from the University of Toledo.
My parents understood my love of art, and kept me happy with a steady supply of art materials as a kid. Coloring books were fun, but stacks of blank or recycled paper from my dad’s office were even better. Each trip to my maternal grandparent’s home had us racing to my grandma’s desk to pull out the countless coloring books and notepads that my cousins and I colored in each visit. They provided us the big clunky crayons when we were little, but as we grew, they crayons got smaller and the assortment of colors available grew. We knew we hit the big time when the 64 color assortment showed up with the built in sharpener!
"String Art" by Tommy Oakley 1970.

My parents also understood the power of displaying my creations. A string art picture made in kindergarten was given to my paternal grandparents as a gift. It hung in their family room and when my grandma moved into an assisted living facility after my grandfather’s death, it followed her and sat on her television. When my grandma passed, my dad returned the artwork to me, still framed and in pretty good condition (considering our less than ideal archival framing). It now hangs in our home along with our own children’s work. Our dining room is graced by a large oil painting done by my husband’s grandmother after her time following the amazing Bob Ross on PBS. A piece done by Anna at the Toledo Museum of Art, in the same classroom that I went to as a kid, hangs below it with one of Eli’s early paintings from day care. They might not be famous artists, but we love and cherish them just the same. We have a magnet purchased at the Detroit Institute of Art that says in big bold letters: THIS IS ART so there isn't any question about the artifacts done by our two kids hung on the fridge for display. If you haven’t figured it out, we love art!

Studies have shown that increased involvement in the arts beyond the school have a huge impact on the child on an emotional and educational level. The work of Shirley Brice Heath of Stanford University found that students involved in the arts were:

·         Four times more likely to win an academic award, such as being on the honor roll.
·         Eight times more likely to receive a community service award.
·         Three times more likely to win a school attendance award.
·         Four times more likely to participate in a math or science fair.
·         Likely to score higher on their SAT college admission test scores if they have been involved for more than four years of after-school arts study.
As an arts educator, it should come as no surprise that I try to expose my kids to the arts any time we can. They went with me to the opening weekend of Art Prize in Grand Rapids, MI to view my entry and have gone to countless museums and galleries with us as we have toured the Midwest. Just this past weekend, a group of artists from the Jackson area put on a show called “Renegade” in a vacant warehouse in our neighborhood. Many of the artists present were former students of mine and I was super thrilled to come and support them. The planners put out a kids’ table full of blank canvases, a roll of paper, and several different types of paint.
Anna's landscape. Watercolor on stretched canvas

Eli's abstraction in black and brown. Watercolor on stretched canvas
Where do you think my kids were all afternoon? When Eli wasn’t out dancing in front of the musicians, he was with his sister creating works that will undoubtedly end up gracing our walls in the near future. When you support the arts with your kids in tow, you support not only the artists but your kids’ futures as well.

                                                                   























Sunday, March 1, 2015

Chronic Marriage Fatigue Syndrome



Life has been rough lately, and I have been struggling to figure out why. I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, and I have little hope left in my heart these days. Everything seems to be a struggle: from making dinner to getting our two kids settled down for the night. I feel like an extra on “The Walking Dead” as I shuffle through life and all it brings. It started back in November with my husband. We were both crushed by the results of our state and local elections.  A feeling of helplessness hung over our heads as we realized that the GOP would remain in control here in Michigan. The Michigan Republicans are decidedly unfriendly to LGBT people and to teachers. We are both of those.
We were also waiting for a ruling from the 6th Circuit Court regarding the repeal of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban. I had joked via Twitter that we would probably have Ebola in Michigan before marriage equality, and one afternoon after the elections, that prophecy came true. No, it wasn’t Ebola, it was the 6th Circuit Court upholding the 2004 voter approved proposal against same-sex marriage.  Tod, my husband, had not heard the news, so when he came home, I grabbed him and told him what the court had ruled. I could see in his eyes he was crushed. We hugged and then we bonked our wedding rings together like the Wonder Twins in solidarity. I knew that this would be the outcome all along. I had little hope of the 6th Circuit Court agreeing with the end of the ban, so when the news came, it was no shock to me. But Tod took it hard. He was sad and unable to deal with the feelings that this brought. I was proactive after the ruling and ditched a ton of my commitments in the community. I needed to focus on my family and bring what little energy I had into our lives to help keep us together. Tod went to our physician (at my prodding) and he got some help from the doctor and he is doing fine now.
As the month wore on and the holidays approached, I couldn’t shake the funk from my shoulders. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. I do however have access to the internet and I did some self-diagnosis over how I was feeling and it became clear to me that this wasn’t just depression I was dealing with, it was something deeper. I found Robert Hirschfield’s “When the blues won’t go away” at our local library and I discovered that I most likely have dysthymic disorder. DD (as it’s known) is a low level, chronic mood malfunction. It’s not as severe as a major depression, bi-polar disease, or other macro-behavioral problems, but it is real and persistent and does not usually go away on its own. DD can go on for years, and it’s often impossible for the person affected to know that it is going on. Now, before you panic, I have made an appointment with our doctor and I am going in for a checkup to make sure that I am okay. In Hirschfield’s book, he mentions that trauma in your life can cause this disorder and he urges self-reflection to sit down and find out what was causing it.
I did that, and for me, the tipping point came when our governor announced that he would not challenge the appeal on the 300 marriages that were performed when the window was open last year. That was great news for many of our friends who took advantage of the window and got hitched that Saturday. But for us, our marriage in California is still not legal in Michigan. The unfairness of it all sucks, and it hurts. I started thinking about this and I realized that for the past ten years, I have been living in a state of angst over gay marriage and how it affects me. I was heavily involved in the struggle to defeat Proposition 4 in 2004 and when it came to be, I was pissed. I retreated to my own little world and shut out the world. I didn’t feel wanted, I didn’t feel loved, and I didn’t feel like a viable member of society. At the time, Tod and I had only had a commitment ceremony to cement our vows, but with this prohibition on the books, it seemed almost impossible to do anything else.
But then there was a ray of hope, streaming in from the west. California had approved same-sex marriage and there wasn’t a residency requirement. We were elated at the news and made plans in 2008 to fly out to San Francisco to get legally married on the 7th anniversary of our commitment ceremony in 2001.
But then Proposition 8 reared its ugly head and it all began to fall apart just a few months after our big day. The voters in California approved it and we, as well as the thousands of other couples were left wondering if our legal marriages were still intact. We knew that they would mean nothing here in Michigan, but we took the time, the money, and the risk to make it happen, not only for us as a couple, but for our daughter as well (Eli was not yet in the picture).
You know the rest of this story, and you know how it all played out a few summers ago with the repeal of DOMA and Edie Windsor’s triumph before the Supreme Court. But it hasn’t been a success for us. We’re still waiting and the waiting and uncertainty is what’s causing this depression and angst in my life. There are serious ramifications for our family, both from a personal (my legal adoption of Eli) and from a financial standpoint (insurance, taxes, etc.).
It’s time.
It’s time for us to finally be able to say we are legally married here in the Mitten and get out of this depressive state. I see my doctor next week and I am going to share with him what I have found out about DD and hopefully he’ll be able to shed some light on my mental state and offer me some solutions. I need to get my hope back for the sake of my kids and marriage. I need to get my peace of mind back for my own sanity and general health. I can’t wait for June and the ruling from the Supreme Court.  It is our hope that this cloud of inequality will finally pass and we can get on with our lives as a healthy, sane (?) and legally married couple here in Michigan.







Friday, February 6, 2015

The Death of a Bully


Author’s Note: For some time, I have listened to my parents talk about the decline of a former member of their church (the church I grew up in). I have grown used to this as my parents are in their seventies and their friends from the church are even older. Once or twice a month my mom will share the passing of a person from the congregation, a church I left almost 30 years ago. The man that they had a great deal of concern with was my first bully. He wasn't in the halls of my school or on the playground, he was at their church and his bullying still rings in my years several decades later. When we visited my parents with the kids for the holidays, they brought up the fact that he was now in hospice and not expected to live much longer. I shared with both of them his bullying actions to me and my friends growing up, but they didn't seem to care. My dad shrugged his shoulders and mumbled something about him being an old friend and my mom commented on how rough this all was for his family during the holidays.

I addressed this man and his bullying in my book; this is an excerpt:

There is much talk about bullying these days, and rightly so. With the boom of social media over the past decade, it has become very easy to taunt and harass both in person and on line. Much of the bullying prevention is aimed at younger kids and schools everywhere have “Bully-free” signs adorning their halls. Sadly, bullying happens at all levels. For me, I took my fair share of ribbing when I was a kid, most of it was not aimed at my sexuality. But going to my parents’ church was a different story. Toledo (Ohio) in the mid-80s was still holding on to its automotive/factory roots and many of the parents of the kids I grew up with were factory workers for Jeep or Champion Spark Plugs. One of my friend’s parents had a collection of awards and clocks proudly display on their television for their decades of service on the assembly line. I chose education as my career of choice as I had great respect for many of my teachers and I wanted to continue that tradition with my own career. 

During this time, I was still living with my parents and attending church with them each week. I dreaded the weekly service, as a rather loud and obnoxious member of the church (who is probably a member of the Tea Party now) would verbally harass us young adults, cajoling us for being in college and not “doing anything” in his stunted vision of life as an adult. Due to his family’s status in the church, we usually blew him off and nervously laughed while he called us worthless one hundred different ways each week. The Sunday dread set in when I saw his pickup truck in the church’s parking lot, adorned with flags, veteran stickers and countless other right wing causes.
Was this bullying? Probably, but we were young, and no one in the church seemed to care that this guy could verbally abuse us every Sunday and get away with it. Everyone, including my parents, seemed to think it was okay. They would laugh and say that he was just being himself and in so many words, we should buck up and take it. I think my parents actually sent me to ex-gay camp at his house when I was a kid to knock out some wood working projects and tinker on cars (which I hated) since I didn't embrace any of that as a kid. I would have been happier playing with my Planet of the Apes Tree house set or reading, but they had other plans. So I diligently trudged up the street to his house each week and pretended to care about what he was trying to teach me.


This man was physically large and intimidating and he always wore a flag pin before you had to wear one post 9/11. He would pony up to us youngsters in the narthex of the church before the service and smack our shoulders and ask us what we learned in college as he wiggled his hips and made funny faces. He took particular joy in making fun of my choice to teach art. His voice would slip into a lisp and he would ask how my classes (classsssssssssses….he hissed) were going at the museum. Never mind that I was going to a world class institution and had some of the best art education professors in the state, to him it was all a joke. If he didn't do that, he’d ask us what we had done for our country lately, insinuating that since none of us were in the military the answer would be nothing (he was a veteran, natch). He never once called me gay or questioned my sexuality. He didn't have to, his actions spoke for him.

One of my college jobs was an activities director at a nursing home. The facility had a VA contract, so we had a rather large population of veterans from all branches of the military. Aside from hosting countless bingo games and craft projects, I was also mandated by the VA to give the veterans a well-deserved block of my attention each week. With this aspect of my job, I could finally respond to his annoying question of “What have you done for your country this week?” My work at the nursing home provided a tangible answer to his taunt. The veterans and I would do puzzles, smoke cigars (yes, they could smoke in the facility, and drink too!), or we would watch old war movies that I rented from the library. For those that couldn't get out of bed, or were too far gone, I’d sit with them and read them a story from a Reader’s Digest, or I would just sit with them and hold their hand.
So one Sunday, I had finally had enough. When the man came up for his weekly harassing, the question came up, as it had so many Sundays before: “What have you done for your country this week?” I turned to him and started listing all the things I had done with the various veterans in the facility, calling each of them by name and mentioning what I did with them and how much time I spent with them. I then looked him straight in the eye and said, “How about you?”  He didn't have an answer and walked away. My heart was in my throat after calling him out on his bull shit, but it felt good to finally put this lug in his place.

Post script: 
I learned that he died on New Year’s Day.  My dad posted on Facebook that he held on until January 1st as he wanted to live to see 2015. He told his family that he had already bought a calendar for the year and didn't want to waste it. The comments after the post expressed sympathy for the family and praised this man. For me, I am just glad that the bullying stopped, but the memory of those actions remain. 

You can find my book, “Jesus has two Daddies” here: https://www.createspace.com/4404757